Very often when I do a public or private performance, especially one that utilizes a stage, I absolutely love using a thing called “audience warmups” before the official show. This can help break the ice a little bit and get the audience familiar with the clown’s presence.
I usually have a rule of thumb for these types of warmups, always start them fifteen minutes before the show. If you have a preshow, I wouldn’t suggest using audience warmups, for this is mostly designed for a performance without a preshow.
Here are some ideas that I have used that I have found great success in using to get the audience warmed up and ready to just relax and laugh:
1. Do a inflatable wave (audience making waves with their hands above their head like the inflatables at car dealerships).
2. Have the pianist/keyboard (if you have one) make all kinds of sounds and have the audience imitate them. Ask the audience to stand up and do some physical warm-up. Have them shake their arms and legs and perhaps dance to the sound of the piano.
3. Have the audience introduce themselves to strangers, tell a secret their spouse/partner doesn’t know about to a stranger, have them hug a stranger, tell your neighbor what you ate today, your pin code...err maybe not the last one.
4. Do an interview with the audience, where the MC is one character (say, a headmaster) and all of the audience another (say a naughty child). The audience needs to reply to the interview in one voice (all saying the same at the same time). Not an easy one, and if the audience does not feel like doing this it really sucks. When it works it’s a real thrill.
5. Divide the audience in 3 or 4 groups, and give each group a sound. Rehearse the sound with each group. Then tell a silly story, and use these sounds as sound effects. (I saw a pretty gruesome one in which one group was a car (roar), another a dog (bark) and the third group got a kind of splashing sound. The poor dog got run over by the car... not exactly nice but the audience had fun with it).
6. Do a cheering competition between the men and the women. Children vs adults. Left vs right...etc.
7. This one is one of my favorites when I’m introducing the clown performer rather than being the performer. It’s called the applause-o-meter. It’s a scale of 1-10 for applause. You start the audience off at level one which is a soft clap, barely can hear it. Then it’s off to level two and then three which is just above a golf clap. Then of course there’s levels four and five which are pretty good claps, like you’re getting a decent performance for your money. Off to levels six and seven where you’re starting to whistle and cheer. Eight and nine you’re stomping your feet, cheering loud, whistling and just all around about to explode with energy! Then we hit 10; the level that’s above all levels combined! Everyone stands up on their feet, jumping up and down, whistling, hollering, hooting, wooting, and any other noise from above the waist.
You can definitely come up with your own audience warm ups, or even test out one of the above warmups. They’re a great way to connect to the audience, get a feel for how energetic they are, how willing to be silly they are (comes in handy if your performance requires volunteers) and all around gets them to relax and enjoy the environment (remember, clowning takes people away from their realities and into a world that’s completely different. Free from burdens and worries.). Let me know in the comments if you use warmups for your audiences and what kind you use! I’d love to hear about it.